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Are Relationships Important?

My teenage step daughters would often announce that they plan to live alone because:

“relationships with people are so difficult!”.

My parental impulses urge me to convince them that they won't really be happy alone. But then I remember to take in what they are telling me about themselves – that it really does seem impossible to get along with other people, and living alone often does look appealing.

So, in an age of unprecedented personal independence, where any one of us can live a reasonably good life alone, why bother with other people? To answer that question, ask yourself why you spend time with friends, family, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, phone, or e-mail.

The answer is pretty obvious – we need people. We crave their company, seek their approval, want their support, and generally feel better when we feel connected to someone else. We are anxious or sad when we feel isolated and alone, going through life by ourselves.

But then there are the conflicts, tensions, disagreements, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings that accompany any relationship, especially the close ones. And this, of course, makes even the most social of us think that we may be better off alone. It's so much work to get along and accommodate other people's craziness.

Two things to consider:

  • Many of us don't feel comfortable alone because we don't know how to be at peace with ourselves. We think we need regular attention and approval from others to know that we are alright.

  • Most of us have never learned any kind of skills for being in relationship. We assume there is nothing to know about how to do it. So, we tend to fail miserably, blame it on the other person, and tell ourselves we are better off alone.

What is to be done? I thought you'd never ask. While I am not promising a miracle solution, I have found some things that work. Mediation: the practice of focusing your attention inward, instead of outward, and noticing who you are when there is no one else to notice you, and what is left when you let go of your story. Scary, I know. Really. Most people don't want to do this. And, it works. After some practice, with guidance and the support of a group on a silent intensive retreat, you begin to notice a solidity about yourself that does not come from other people paying attention to you. It does not come from the story you are telling yourself constantly about who you are and how good or bad you are. It is just there, and always has been. And as you discover it, you become truly free. Conscious Communication: The practice of making room for other people.

  • instead of comparing their story with yours, really listening to understand and recognize their perspective and making room for yourself:

  • instead of withdrawing or lashing out when your feelings are hurt or needs go unmet - being honest about your feelings and needs without blame or attack.


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